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In exploring the degree to which Romantic legacies persist, this study concerns a particular type of poet and novelist. Typical Romantic themes – such as those of nature, solitude, or the sublime – surface in numerous nineteenth and twentieth century writers, such as the poetry of usual suspects like Emerson or Thoreau, but also in the poetry of less usual but notable poets like Elizabeth Bishop, Wallace Stevens, or Wendell Berry. Although they would be worthy poetic subjects, this study does not concern those poets. I am more interested in the less obvious examples of poets who derive their poetics partially from Romantic elements in ways that one might not suspect, and in ways that the poet herself might not suspect. This study concerns those less obviously Romantic writers who yet show signs that Romanticism has infiltrated their thought processes – their poetics – even despite their inclination to veer away from Romantic traditions. Such writers – in this case, Denise Levertov, William Carlos Williams, and Vladimir Nabokov – are studied primarily against the context of Wordsworthian and Keatsian poetics or against European Romanticism through Rousseau's The Confessions. Thus, the nuance in Levertov and Williams' poetics emerges more keenly when explored through the lens of Wordsworthian poetics; and, Nabokov's Lolita provides ample territory for exploring Romantic "autobiography" in the context of claims that both Nabokov's protagonist and Rousseau make – that they will tell nothing but the "truth." In some ways, Romanticism has infiltrated poetic thinking long after its time, and continues to persist in poetic language, philosophy, and practices; it persists even in the poetic thinking of writers who strive to create entirely new literary movements, or who define themselves against past Romantic poetics. In understanding and gaining awareness of how and why these legacies persist, we gain an understanding of how our own writing works and the effects it can have. We also appreciate what it is that impels a literary period to persist sometimes against our own will, or our own expectations.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
James O'Rourke, Professor Directing Dissertation; Lauren Weingarden, Outside Committee Member; Eric Walker, Committee Member; Helen Burke, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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